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210                              ĢIFE  OF
lected, and it even appeared that none of them had
ever been on the siimmit of the volcano. In spite of
these disadvantages, Huinboldt perseveringly followed
the path for three hours, when they arrived at a little
plain in whose centre the Piton or Sugarloaf rises.,
and where the outlets of the peak are, which the
natives call nostrils., and from which vapours some-
times rise which have no smell and seem to consist of
pure water.
The steepest part of the mountain had to be climbed
now., and the ascent could only be achieved by
following the remains of an old stream of lava which
formed a kind of rocky wall in the midst of the rolling
ashes. After climbing with hands and feet up the
sharp pointed lava mass., they -ascended the Sugar-
loaf. In about half an hour they had surmounted
the cone, about ninety toises high, and the way
would have been more dangerous still had the so-
called Sugarloaf been covered with snow. H/iim-
boldt was shown the spot on which Captain Baudin
had once nearly lost his life.*
At eight o'clock in the morning, in a freezing tem-
perature, Humboldt reached the top of the cone,
which scarcely afforded sufficient room for the whole
party to sit down to rest. They could not see the
crater itself, because lava and brimstone had formed
a kind of wall round it. An opening on the western
side, probably formed ^by a stream of lava, afforded
an entrance into the kettle of the volcano ; Humboldt,
followed by Ms companions,, descended to the bottom
of the funnel, whose eggshaped mouth must be SCO
feet in length, and 200 broad. The warmth they
perceived here proceeded from some slits from which
watery vapours flowed,, accompanied by a peculiar
rushing sound, and the interior of this crater afforded
the picture of a volcano which has for millenniums
* Captain Bandm had been bold enough to ascend to the summit
daring the snowtime in 1797* When he had got about halfway, he
slipped, and rolled down to the next plain, where, fortunately for
Mm, Ms jfoU was broken by a heap of lara covered with snow.